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Tinubu regime resumes Buhari’s gag order against media, warns Arise News over guests’ remarks

ABUJA- Just over four months into office as president, the regime of Bola Tinubu has sustained his predecessor, Muhammed Buhari’s legacy of intimidating the media, after it issued a final warning notice to Arise TV over comments made by the station’s guests. 

The October 6 warning by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) was in response to remarks made by guests Dele Farotimi and Kenneth Okonkwo of the Labour Party on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ and ‘Newsday’ on October 5 and 6 respectively. 

The regime termed the guests’ remarks as “unguaurded incendiary remarks” against the three arms of the federal government and President Tinubu. 

However, the particular comments made by the guests and found offensive by the NBC were not indicated in the notice.

The warning notice signed by NBC’s Director General, Balarabe Shehu Ilelah, was addressed to the CEO of Arise News and copied to media houses.

The regulator warned Arise News to adopt a “delay mechanism to guard against possible undesirable contents as described in Section 5.5.6 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code,” or face sanctions following a repeat in future broadcasts.

In the warning notice, the NBC said that it had “observed with concern, the preponderance of incendiary remarks allowed on Arise News,” and ordered the broadcaster to “manage array of guests that may feature on the station from time to time.”

Part of the notice reads: “For the benefit of doubt, on October 5, 2023 during the programme ‘The Morning Show’ anchored by Reuben Abati, Rufai Useni and Ayo Maira Ese, featured Oladotun Hasan and Dele Farotimi as Guests.

“The programme contained unguaurded incendiary remarks by Dele Farotimi against the legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Mr President.

“On October 6, 2023 during the programme ‘Newsday’ featured Kenneth Okonkwo (Spokesperson for Labour Party) who used derogatory remarks on air.” 

“Please note that henceforth your station shall be held liable for any infraction on your platform and applicable sanctions shall be imposed as prescribed by Law.

“Please refer to the following Sections of the Code to guide your operations henceforth. (Ref. Nigeria Broadcasting Code Section 1.10.3, 3.31(a,c and e), 3.3.1(e), 5.3.3(b), 5.5.6).” 

Recall that Arise TV had previously been sanctioned on different occasions by the immediate past Buhari regime over alleged breach of the broadcasting code.

In October 2020, the Commission imposed a N3 million fine each on Arise TV and two other stations over what it claimed were ethical infractions during the #EndSARS protests and its aftermath, which it believed flouted the broadcasting code.

In November 2022, during the run up to the 2023 election, Arise TV reported that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was probing a court case in the United States involving Mr Tinubu, the then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress.

The agency fined Arise N2 million after INEC described the document in circulation, which had the commission’s letterhead containing the information on the purported investigation, as “fake”.

Also, in February 2023, the NBC fined Arise TV a similar amount for reporting a broadcast where the spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) presidential campaign council, Dino Melaye, and Na’jaatu Muhammed, mocked Mr Tinubu’s health condition.